On the 16th of November 2021, A Google outage led to 30 000 websites crashing. When such a tech giant crashes, everyone feels the impact. Of course, Google resolved the issue in a matter of hours. But what if it lasted longer?
Today, Google, a trillion-dollar market cap company, controls 92 percent of the world’s internet searches. It means that Google benefits from all the financial rewards and power that come with this exceptional market position. Google and other tech giants are at the core of the current centralized internet we all use that enables censorship, bias, and cancel culture.
But what if there were a new kind of search engine that would disintermediate the middleman from the business model? With a decentralized approach to ranking results? With no one, not even the founders of the project, able to control it? A blockchain-based search engine can do all of this and more. This article will discuss why blockchain-based, decentralized search engines are the future of censorship-free search.
The story of Google’s dominance
Google has leveraged its dominant position in the search business to create a vast network of other convenient and attractive consumer services. In some cases, Google has clearly bought these companies as part of a larger MASTER PLAN. Think of it. Do you want to watch videos? You’ve got YouTube. Do you want a browser? There is Google Chrome. And then all those productivity tools like Gmail, Google Docs, Drive, Google Sheets, and even Android operating systems.
These services are compelling to users because they are cheap and sometimes even free. However, this centralization is scary because all these services are linked to your personal Google identity. As a result, Google extracts data from tracking your online activities and channels all this data into a personalized algorithm. This AI-powered algorithm constantly learns how to make more money from your existence on this planet.
Is Google biased?
Google can show you that there are millions of search results to your query, but if you count them manually by going to the last page, you will see that, in reality, the number of results is tens if not hundreds of times less. Where are all the other search results?
While the answer to whether Google is biased is not clear, we can undoubtedly say that it’s people who create the algorithm. They control how algorithms control the data and what weight they give to each signal. Humans are not robots, and they tend to have some bias that is highly likely to demonstrate itself in one way or another. Moreover, Google can exclude specific websites from search results so that nobody can find them. They are already censoring multiple websites for various reasons and can label any content hostile or hateful without giving you proper explanations.
Was this Google’s dominance inevitable? It wasn’t. We can conclude this by studying the story of China’s search engine – Baidu.
The story of Baidu
Not many of you know that Baidu has 72% of the market share in China. However, the difference with Google is that Baidu does not have access to the same amount of customer data. Why? Because Tencent and Alibaba figured out quickly that if they offer a lot of cheap or free Google-like services to their customers, they will prevent one company from controlling so much data. Tencent and Alibaba don’t share data with Baidu. Consequently, Baidu can’t track and trace everything its users do online and doesn’t have the same unified customer identity as Google.
Tencent and Alibaba have outgrown Baidu, and no one Chinese company has similar control over our online lives as Google achieved. The result? The control over user data has been decentralized and distributed across multiple companies. The story of Baidu shows the potential of decentralization that blockchain offers and the path we can take.
The architecture of search engines
Search engines have three primary stages:
- Crawling, the discovery of the content.
- Indexing, the analysis, and storing of content in databases.
- Searching, where a search query retrieves a list of relevant search results.
Let’s have a look at the architecture of search systems. Almost all of them have three subsystems: a crawler, a searcher, and a database. Here is a brief explanation of two of them (as we all know what a database is).
- A web crawler is an offline subsystem. It’s a type of software that retrieves web pages and creates and generates an index based on text. A crawler needs one or more seed URLs to download the associated pages, extract hyperlinks, and then periodically download the pages.
- A searcher is an online component. It processes the queries. The algorithm ranks pages depending on several parameters (think SEO), including the PageRank, the quantity of anchor text, bounce rate, etc. The counts of clicks measure the quality of pages at various proximity levels. These counts are then routed through multiple lookup tables and translated into a rank.
What is a decentralized search engine?
Decentralized search engines do not have a single point of control. Crawling, indexing, data mining, and processing are distributed among several peers in the network. For example, decentralized search engines like YaCy FAROO operate on peer-to-peer networks.
The YaCy search engine has five parts. P2P network, crawler, indexer, database, and user search interface. When a peer joins the network, its local search index joins the network’s mutual index. So when a user initiates a search, the local and global indexes both contribute to search results.
Blockchain and search engines. The decentralized future
Blockchain and decentralization can prevent another Internet giant, like Google, from ever appearing again. Moreover, it can weaken current Google’s position in the market and deprive it of so-much-needed data, A lack of which will destroy the entire system we currently live in. With blockchain, no one entity will be all-powerful, and everyone will retain complete control over their digital identity and personal data with ANONYMITY as the default option. Nobody can track you, use your data against you, censor you, or entirely lock you out of online services. The 4th industrial revolution is not only about digitalization and automation, it is about regaining control over our privacy and data integrity.
Yes, blockchain can also track your behavior if you sign up for services like Lolli and agree to monetize the value of your data. But it will be solely your decision.
Benefits of blockchain search engines
Blockchain consists of a chain of blocks, forming a decentralized network that stores information securely. Key features of blockchain are transparency, auditability, immutability, and decentralization. Therefore, blockchain is tamperproof and more secure than conventional networks. In its essence, blockchain is a decentralized database, therefore it is a perfect platform for building search engines.
When a user enters a search query on a blockchain-based decentralized search engine, the system searches through the distributed ledger and shows the results. Then the details of the search are encrypted and stored on the ledger. Blockchain is a P2P network, so every computer adds its contribution to the storage distribution of the ledger results. Here are some benefits of a blockchain-based search engine:
Thanks to these characteristics of the blockchain, blockchain-based search engines don’t have centralized control because they are distributed across multiple networks. Decentralization reduces trust concerns and eliminates possible monopoly and centralized control.
With blockchain-based search engines, no entity can claim users’ data or violate privacy. The tamperproof nature of the blockchain makes it impossible to tamper with the data because it is encrypted, validated, and stored on the network. Moreover, blockchain-based search engines can equip their users with private keys to help protect their data.
Disruption of the ad network and online marketing
Currently, the ad network is monopolized by large tech giants and controlled by middlemen (agencies and website owners). A blockchain-based search engine can create a competitive ad network that benefits everyone and eliminate the need for intermediaries by enabling brands and manufacturers to reach out to consumers directly.
We all know how advertisers target users based on their behavior with contextual ads and ads based on your internet activity. Sometimes it can be pretty annoying to see that some ads literally “read your mind.” With blockchain, there is no user data captured and stored. So marketers cannot take advantage of targeted ads. They will have to find organic and honest ways to be relevant in an ecosystem, where domain rating, number of backlinks, cost per click, and other factors will have no impact.
Blockchain-based search engines do not have bias and are not distorted by limiting policies or paid ads. The content will only rank because it is relevant to the query and not based on multiple ranking factors considered by centralized search engines.
Downsides of blockchain-based search engines
As with most things in life, the benefits of blockchain come with some downsides or improvement needs. Some of them are:
For any developments or changes to occur on the blockchain, there has to be a consensus. It means that blockchain-based search engines will not be able to roll out upgrades as fast as their centralized counterparts.
Potential misuse by criminals
The anonymity and privacy offered by blockchain-based search engines may pose security risks. We know that secret services, counter-terrorism units, and government entities track searches in centralized search engines. Blockchain faces a challenge because it needs to keep its privacy promise without turning into a platform for terrorists and criminals.
Current blockchain-based decentralized search engines
Given the immaturity of the blockchain-based search engine space, many solutions are highly experimental, yet some have already proven their capabilities. Let’s look at some of them.
Presearch search engine
Presearch is not just a search engine. It’s a decentralized community effort and a non-profit project. It will be owned and operated in a decentralized way by the Camino community. Presearch has a basic search bar and offers a choice of engines to search with, including Google, Amazon, DuckDuckGo, Etherscan, Facebook, and others. The interface doesn’t change depending on the platform you choose.
PRE coin is listed on a few exchanges and belongs to the Ethereum blockchain.
What do we like about Presearch?
- Privacy. Presearch doesn’t track your searches and has no history function.
- Earning potential. You can make ~$1.5/ day in PRE coin just by using Presearch. It pays users for searching (0.25 PRE per search with a cap of 8 PRE per day). They also have an affiliate program and pay 25 PRE per referral. Another way to earn money with Presearch is to operate nodes. To withdraw your coins, you need to have a wallet to transfer them to and have a minimum of 1000 PRE.
- Keyword staking. It’s a new way to advertise. You can keyword stake a search term and use the native token to pay. Presearch will show your ad first when someone searches for this term if you’ve bid more than other people staking that keyword. The search engine doesn’t charge per click or impression.
- Sync your bookmarks. When you download Presearch, you don’t need to export your bookmarks as they stay the same. It makes Presearch much more user-friendly than Brave that doesn’t sync your bookmarks.
- Mission. We love ethics and the mission statement of Presearch. Here is part of it: We believe that the world deserves a community-driven, grassroots, decentralized search engine that’s built by and for the community it serves. This search engine should reward those who contribute to its success and leverage blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to align the interests of all of its stakeholders.
Nebulas search engine
The ambition of Nebulas is to become the “Google of blockchains.” It’s very developer-friendly and has an excellent reputation system. The idea of having a decentralized search engine for blockchain networks and dApps is fascinating.
Nebulas is not just a search engine. It’s a search framework for all blockchains. This platform allows users to search through smart contracts, dApps, and blockchain assets. Nebulas has smart contract capabilities that are upgradable and a virtual machine. Their native token, NAS, is used to pay for transactions and computing power.
What do we love about Nebulas?
- Open and transparent feedback ecosystem for the developers’ community. Think of App Store that opened new opportunities for mobile apps by building an ecosystem with huge social value and business returns. However, due to the increasing number of applications, developers on App Store cannot share in the growing valuation bonus of the platform. Now, imagine a more inclusive developer incentive tool secured by blockchain technology. In such an ecosystem, every dApp developer will share the benefits based on their contribution.
- Nebulas Rank (NR). NR measures the value of dApps regarding liquidity, propagation, And interoperability and is a base for its Proof-of-Devotion consensus mechanism. NR functionality, combined with a “keyword” mechanism, will create blockchains’ information indexes and sort and manage relevant information. As a result, users will have access to more relevant, high-value data.
BitClave is a public, open, decentralized ecosystem, enabling users to use and share their data. As a result, businesses can communicate directly with their customers without any middlemen. End users, businesses, and the ecosystem’s community are the core participants in BitClave. Users have complete control over their identity and can limit who has access to their data. End-users save effort and time and receive deals from brands that are ideally suited to their needs.
What do we love about BitClave?
- Personalization. Users voluntarily share their information and receive highly targeted offers and promotions based on this data. You can benefit from cash rewards and lower-cost goods while having control over your data.
- Collaboration. BitClave’s ecosystem empowers collaboration between small, medium, and large businesses.
- Safe, scalable, anonymous search. BitClave technology enables search through large datasets.
What’s next for decentralized search engines?
With the development of digital money, IoT, and digital twins, decentralized blockchain-based search engines have enormous potential.
Considering IoT’s privacy and security issues, a blockchain-based decentralized search engine can bring powerful searches to IoT without data privacy concerns.
The first significant evolution of search will happen when digital money platforms merge with search engines.
Blockchain-based search engines are at the base of the decentralized internet and Web 3.0 revolution because they will increase the adoption of dApps and blockchain technologies by making them discoverable. Those search systems also benefit every user by rewarding user activity with their native tokens, like Presearch.
Moreover, blockchain-based decentralized search engines are an excellent solution for more context-aware and personalized results with edge computing without disclosing user’s data like in the centralized context-based services. They encrypt the data, store it on edge, and process it locally while protecting users’ privacy.
Conventional, centralized search engines have multiple issues that concern both users and businesses. Additionally to the lack of data privacy and monopoly, their selective search space and limited indexing mean that they can censor anyone at any time, and users will be unable to find unbiased information.
Centralized search engines ignore data with unconventional origins, such as dApps, blockchain networks, deep web, and dark web. Their algorithms index web pages and links but ignore contracts, businesses, and customers.
Blockchain-based decentralized search engines do not have centralized power controlling them, and no private company or entity can access users’ data, search history, and other information. Blockchain enables data encryption and stores it on its secure and immutable network. Blockchain search engines value users’ search activity and reward them with tokens for their searches as Presearch does. The future of blockchain applications is promising and goes way beyond cryptocurrencies with search engines, file-sharing services, video streaming platforms, fog and edge computing, and grid computing databases being built on blockchain.